I just returned from an SMRT class that I taught in Trinidad, CO. The class was small, but I always take a teaching assistant in case we end up uneven. The class we were teaching was SMRT: Hips, Lower Back, & Abdomen. I decided that my TA and I would get into the trades. This is a wonderful way to show students what the technique should feel like and accomplish and to give them direct feedback. For the abdomen I was trading with a woman I will call Jill. The congestion and tension in her lower right abdomen was apparent as soon as I began to palpate. Lately I have been reading quite a few articles about not releasing, balancing, softening, or in any way working on psoas major. I have always disagreed with this perspective. My own theory is that we should always ask ourselves why something is….tight, taut, tense, facilitated, inhibited, adhered, inflamed, congested, etc.
When we can answer the why, we will know how to treat. I myself have a right side psoas major muscle that tends to swell. It feels very tight when palpated but it is weak from years of gripping and trying to create stability in my consistently unstable pelvic girdle. In the past bodyworkers have attempted to treat my right psoas major only to leave me inflamed and irritated for several days. Many start by thinking they know exactly how to work with the muscle, then within minutes I feel their frustration at the lack of response they are getting from my right psoas, and they end by simply applying pressure to the area, which not only does not work, it actually irritates my psoas more. So, I personally understand why these articles are written.
But I also know what does work for me and that is Spontaneous Muscle Release Technique or SMRT. It is the only bodywork modality that gives me relief from the constant irritation in my right psoas major. The reason is that in the SMRT system the first question we ask is “why?” In my case the why is that I have osteoarthritis in the metatarsophalangeal joints of my big toes and have had 3 foot surgeries. My gait is chronically imbalanced. This issue has existed in my right foot since my early 30’s, about 20 years now. In addition to this issue, I have extra breast tissue in my axillas. On my right side, this breast tissue has interfered with pectoralis major since I was 16. I had it removed about 3 years back because I had a benign tumor that was creating numbness down my arm. My right pelvis is in a tug-a-war between my imbalanced gait and dysfunctional shoulder. This leaves my right psoas major in a position of gripping in an attempt to create stability. It is inflamed because it is exhausted.
In Jill’s case the why had to do with her right leg and foot. I uncovered her right lower extremity and saw that, in a passive position, her right foot, lower leg, and thigh were in medial rotation. Rather than treat the congestion in her lower right abdomen, I began to treat her right lower extremity. Using the concept of SMRT to work with the muscles, connective tissues, and bones, it took me about 8 minutes to change the position of her leg. Now, I have had other modalities done or seen demos where you can see the change in the extremity position immediately, but internally I still felt the twist and the change did not last. It was a wonderful visual way to attract students to that method, but it did not actually create lasting results. I took the 8 minutes to work with all the structures in her leg so the treatment would last.
When I re-palpated her right lower abdomen, the congestion and tension had diminished by 70%. She said, “the fact that you can touch that like you are and get as deep as you are is a miracle.” No, not a miracle, just SMRT. Now I was ready to balance her psoas major and iliacus muscles, which only took me a minute. The next day she pulled me aside and said that the position of her foot was still almost 3 inches more lateral than it had been the day before and her “belly” felt amazing.